For the last three days I have been traveling with a group of educators, visiting schools which are that for the innovative ways they are educating their students. The range of variables in these schools was wide, with two schools close to 150 years old and one less than two years old. Their enrollment varied from 30 students to over 10,000. The physical spaces we saw ranged from elegant old construction to rented office space to brand new, state of the art facilities. Two schools were operating with high end technology and practically no hard copy books, while one school had a rag tag library of donated books and a makeshift collection computers and tech tools.
Yet, while we talked with the administrators, teachers, and students, we heard some common themes expressed at each school.
The students were highly engaged and happy about participating in the learning process. Their learning was sparked by passionate inquiry. This inquiry was driven by a personal desire to learn more about something. The learning process started with questions. They were using a variety of avenues to find the answers to their questions, including some very hands-on methods. The teacher role was very much that of a mentor or coach who provided guidance, support, and encouragement. Failure to answer a question or solve a problem did not mean the end of the learning process. Intentional reflection about the learning process turned failure into part of the journey to reach the answer. Attentiveness, or focus, played a major role in moving toward an answer or solution. There was not a focus on grades. The focus was on the growth of skills, not on acquired facts. These skills are translatable to the real world, beyond school.